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The Future of Autonomous Vehicles

What is the Future of Self-Driving Cars?

Autonomous vehicles have garnered a lot of interest in the past decades. Most people believe self-driving cars provide numerous benefits for us and our environment, such as increased road safety, reduced traffic accidents, reduced traffic congestion, and pollution.

Although many driverless vehicles are on the roads today under the supervision of a human driver, researchers predict there will be about eight million self-driving cars on our roadways by 2025, and one in 10 vehicles will be fully automated by 2030. However, until challenges can be resolved, the auto industry can only speculate.

Many pieces of a complicated puzzle will need to fall into place before self-driving vehicles become a norm on our roads. Autonomous vehicles must go through six levels of driver assistance technology advancements, ranging from zero (fully manual) to five (fully autonomous).

Level Zero —Manual Controlled

Most vehicles on the road today are at level 0, and the human driver manually controls the driving task with systems in place. Information sources like vehicle motion sensors, road maps, and global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) are integrated using a fusion algorithm. Other information references, such as traffic situations and map-matched data, are provided to the driver for guidance.

Level One —Driver Assistance

Level 1 features a single automated system for driver assistance, like steering, cruise control, or accelerating. The driver monitors and controls other aspects of driving. Level 1 uses a multisensory platform that includes radar, camera, GNSS, LiDAR, ultrasonic sensors, inertial measurement units (IMUs), and inertial navigation systems (INS). Ultrasonic sensors are used for parking but are not as crucial for autonomous driving.

Level Two —Partial Automation

Level 2 features vehicles with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and can control steering, accelerating, or decelerating. At this level, automation falls short of self-driving because a driver can take control of the car anytime. Examples of level two automation include Cadillac Super Cruise systems and Tesla Autopilot.

Level Three—Conditional Automation

Level 3 features vehicles with environmental detection capabilities. At this level, cars can make informed decisions like accelerating past a slow vehicle, assisting with an emergency stop by braking, or stopping completely. However, the driver must remain alert and ready to take control of the vehicle if the system cannot execute the task.

Level Four—High Automation

Level 4 features vehicles that can operate in self-driving mode and intervene if a system fails. But until infrastructure and legislation evolve, they can only do it within a limited region, such as an urban area where the speed limit is 30 mph. In most situations, cars do not require human interaction, and a driver still has the choice to manually override.

Level Five–Full Automation

Level 5 features vehicles that do not need human attention. At this level, cars will not have steering wheels and acceleration or braking pedals. The vehicles can go anywhere and do anything that an experienced driver can and will be free from geofencing, a technology that could reduce traffic deaths and lower emissions. However, fully autonomous vehicles are still being tested, and none are available to the public yet.

The Sensory Systems of Autonomous Vehicles

Many people are curious about how a fully autonomous system capable of handling a vehicle’s performance like a human driver is designed. A self-driving car combines sophisticated algorithms, sensors and actuators, and powerful processors to perform software. Hundreds of sensors and actuators are in different car parts, driven by a highly innovative system. They include:

  • Guidance and navigation sensors to determine your current location and how to get to your destination.
  • Safety and driving sensors to ensure the vehicle performs appropriately and follows the rules of the road.
  • Performance sensors to handle the car’s internal systems like power control, thermal dissipation, and overall consumption.

While we are still years away from a fully autonomous vehicle, it is exciting to imagine sitting inside one and requesting it to take us to our destination while we sit back and relax.

Watch YouTube Video: Self-Driving Cars: The Future of Transportation. The following video gives us a look at the advancements of fully autonomous vehicles and what we can expect from these cars that drive themselves.

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Photo by Samuele Errico Piccarini on Unsplash

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